Sunday, March 21, 2010

Belief 4: I Choose to Succeed

Successful people believe that they are doing what they choose to do, because they choose to do it. They have a high need for self-determination. When we do what we choose to do, we are committed. When we do what we have to do, we are compliant. A child can see the difference between commitment and compliance. Even a skeptical wise-guy teenager like me could see that some teachers had chosen the profession (and loved to teach) and others did it to just make a living - and the best teachers were clearly the former. They were committed to their students rather than being controlled by external forces (their paycheck).

Successful people have a unique distaste for feeling controlled or manipulated. I see this daily in my work. Even when I've gotten the greatest advance build-up as someone who can help people change for the better, I still meet resistance. I have now made peace with the fact that I cannot make people change. I can only help them get better at what they choose to change. Basketball coach Rick Pitino wrote a book called Success Is a Choice. I agree. "I choose to succeed" correlates closely with achievement in virtually any field.

People don't stumble on success; they choose it. Unfortunately, getting successful people to say "and I choose to change" is not an easy transition. It means turning that muscular commitment on its head. Easy to say, hard to do. The more we believe that our behavior is a result of our own choices and commitments, the less likely we are to want to change that same behavior. There's a reason for this, and it's one of the best-researched principles in psychology. It's called cognitive dissonance. It refers to the disconnect between what we want believe and what we actually experience in the world.

The underlying theory is simple. The more we are committed to believing that something is true, the less likely we are to believe that its opposite is true, even in the face of clear evidence that shows we are wrong. Cognitive dissonance usually works in favor of successful people when they apply it to achieving their mission. The more we are committed to believing that we are on the right path, the less likely we are to believe that our strategy is flawed, even in the face of initial evidence that indicates we may be wrong. It's the reason successful people don't buckle and waver when times are hard.

Their commitment to their goals and beliefs allows them to view reality through rose-tinted glasses - and that's a good thing in many situations. Their commitment encourages people to "stay the course" and to not "give up" when "the going gets tough." Of course, this same principle can work against successful people when they should "change course." The old saying ‘winners never quit' is often true. Sometimes it is important for even the most successful people to quit doing something that isn't working. It is hard for winners to quit!

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


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